Various Artists
Tard & Further‘d
Siltbreeze, 1997

With all the recent hubbub about Siltbreeze’s current roster, I’ve taken to revisiting my records from the label’s (first) heyday. Always a nice encapsulation of this period is 1997’s Tard & Further‘d CD comp that collects, as put on the cover, “selected tracks from the Siltbreeze 7" catalog 1989–95.”

In 17 cuts, the comp reveals the wide breadth of Siltbreeze’s scope, both geographically and sonically. Beginning with Minneapolis’ Halo of Flies’ live take of “Richie’s Dog,” from the label’s first release, there may have been (and may still be) an overriding lo-fi aesthetic to all the imprint put out, but there was also a world of difference between, say, the Gibson Bros’ ramshackle blues (“Brokedown Engine,” a Blind Willie McTell song that the Gibsons would revisit on The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing and Don Howland again on the Bassholes’ eponymous LP) and Shadow Ring’s minimalist think piece (“Tiny Creatures”) that extends far beyond the miles between their locales (Columbus, Ohio and Kent, England, respectively). However, placed on the same record, one can connect the dots between the pastoral pop of New Zealand’s Alastair Galbraith and the cow pasture punk of Harrisburg, Ohio’s Mike Rep and the Quotas. What that connection is may be kind of nebulous, but you know it when you hear it.

There are some names on Tard that would soon become bigger (Sebadoh, Guided By Voices), but their contributions never stand out from the rest. In fact, the two cuts from Monkey 101, a three-piece from Philly that is all but forgotten, are among the best. But the vast majority of acts here are ones that still hold a place in many hearts—no doubt in part because of Siltbreeze’s efforts—if not a place in the mainstream. Of particular enjoyment is Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments’ “Baboon’s Liver,” an eviscerating slab of Bob Petric guitar howl and Ron House’s caustic squeal of delights. More than just tastemaker, Siltbreeze’s role here is as curator of the underground, even if that only meant bringing these sounds to just above the surface. It’s fitting then, that when the world is again swelling with independent ideas, that Siltbreeze is here to sort through it all once more.
Stephen Slaybaugh